Commentary on Prīti Sandarbha (Anu 61) by Satyanarayana Dasa
In the first sixty anucchedas, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has established that prīti is the ultimate puruṣārtha (object of human pursuit). As said earlier, traditionally in India, mokṣa or mukti is considered the highest puruṣārtha. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī is establishing a new principle, primarily based on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, which he established as the highest authority in understanding the Absolute Reality, Tattva. In the beginning of Prīti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī stated that the real goal of life (puruṣārtha) is to attain happiness without any mixture of suffering. All philosophers, theologians, and even common people can easily agree to this. Śrī Jīva equated this to mukti, which literally means “freedom,” specifically, “freedom from suffering.” In this sense, mukti is a negation, and is automatically included in the goal of attaining happiness devoid of any suffering.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has analyzed that the root cause of suffering is ignorance about the Absolute, Tattva. Therefore, realization (sākṣātkāra) of the Absolute is essential to attaining the ultimate goal. This realization is therefore nondifferent from mukti. Realization of the Absolute (tattva-sākṣātkāra) is of two types, Brahman and Bhagavān. Out of these two, bhagavat-sākṣātkāra is far superior. Thus, the real goal of life is realization of the Absolute as Bhagavān (bhagavat-sākṣātkāra).
This realization is also of two types, internal and external. Between them, the second one is superior. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains that realization of Bhagavān without love (prīti) is as good as having no realization at all. Thus, the ultimate goal of life is love for Bhagavān.
Incidentally Śrī Jīva also explains gradual versus immediate liberation (krama- and sadyo mukti, respectively); and liberation during life versus liberation after death (jīvan- and utkrānta-mukti, respectively). He also lists five types of mukti:
- Identity with the Absolute (sāyujya)
- Sharing the realm of Bhagavān (sālokya)
- Sharing the opulences of Bhagavān (sārṣṭi)
- Sharing the beauty of Bhagavān (sārūpya)
- Sharing intimacy with Bhagavān (sāmīpya)
Identity with the Absolute has two divisions: identity with Absolute Consciousness (brahma-sāyujya) and identity with Bhagavān (bhagavat-sāyujya). Neither is recommended by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī because there is no possibility of prīti in them. Among the remaining four, sāmīpya is the best. A devotee, however, does not hanker for any of them, but desires only prīti – whose essence lies in doing favorable service to Bhagavān. A devotee may accept the four types of muktis if they assist in serving Bhagavān.
A devotee never prays for anything but prīti. Sometimes, devotees with prīti may pray for some opulence with which to serve Bhagavān. Bhagavān readily fulfills their desire, but if He does not, the devotee also considers that the grace of Bhagavān. The logic is as follows: Bhagavān does not wish to entangle His devotee in the potential distractions of opulence. In fact, He prefers to gradually make a devotee devoid of all material opulence, resulting in greater humility and surrender, and increasing the devotee’s hunger for pure prīti. Ultimately, all devotees reach the shelter of Bhagavān and live with Him in spiritual forms which are given to them at the end of their material lives.
A subject is established by giving its definition and the process to experience it. Thus, after establishing prīti as the topmost desirable goal of human life, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī then proceeds to explain the definition of prīti. He does so using analogy (atideśa).
Thus current anuccheda is the most important in the entire book, and a sincere student must study it carefully. If the definition of prīti is understood clearly, it will aid greatly in understanding the rest of the book.
Prīti, or “love,” is a very difficult concept to grasp. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that the word “love” is used very commonly in daily conversations. When a word is used excessively, it tends to lose its original meaning. Almost everybody uses the word “love” every day, without paying any attention to its real meaning.
There are various ways of learning the meaning of a word:
- From grammar.We can learn the meaning of the word “went” by comprehending that it is the past perfect form of the verb “to go.”
- From analogy. We can learn the meaning of the word “lime” by hearing that it is like a lemon.
- From a dictionary. We can learn the meaning of the word, “planet” by reading its dictionary definition, “an object that orbits the sun.”
- From instruction. We can learn the meaning of words like “nose,” “eyes,” etc. by being shown what they are.
- From experience. We can learn the meaning of a word by seeing what people refer to when they use it. For example, when visiting a friend, you hear him ask his wife, “Please bring the rasagullas.” When she carries out a plate of white, round sweets, you understand the meaning of the word rasagulla.
Surprisingly, we use many words in our daily life without clearly understanding their meaning. Love is certainly such a word.
Another problem is that we think we already know what love is. This prevents us from making an effort to understand, or paying attention to an explanation of it. Everyone thinks they have some experience of love. The type of love Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī describes here, however, is completely different from the “love” we may have experienced. We can misunderstand it by assuming it to be the same as our ordinary experience of love.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī tries to give an explicit and clear definition of prīti.
To begin, he compares it to ordinary “love.” Comparisons, also called analogies, are very useful in understanding something we don’t know, by referencing their similarities and differences with things we do know. Analogies can also be over-extended, however, because the thing we don’t know is not entirely similar to the things it is compared to or analogous with. Non-material things, for example, are not identical to the material things that are their analogues. Specifically, in this case, ordinary love is not entirely the same as prīti for Bhagavān. Nonetheless analogies are helpful because our material mind cannot begin to grasp non-material things without them.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī says that although the definition of material love is the same as the definition of non-material love, the two are not completely identical. Material love is a product of the material guṇas, while prīti for Bhagavān is a part of His intrinsic potency. In many respects, they have opposite characteristics, although referred to by the same word, “love.” This distinction must always be kept in mind, otherwise we will develop misconceptions about both.
According to the Amarkośa Dictionary (1.4.24), the synonyms for the word prīti are mut, pramada, pramoda, āmoda, sammada, ānanda, ānandathu, śarma, śāta, and sukha. These all basically mean happiness. Happiness is a type of feeling one gets when something favorable happens to oneself or to one’s object of attachment. When we experience happiness our heart “expands” (ullāsa). Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī distinguishes happiness (sukha) from love itself. He says that love (priyatā) also causes the heart to “expand” as in happiness, but it results not from a favorable event, but from giving pleasure to the beloved, or even by desiring to do so and thus coming into proximity with the beloved. It is significantly different from happiness, because it is not the result of an event, but the result of a mood or temperament that continually exists in the heart of the lover.
Love therefore includes the feeling of happiness, but happiness does not include all the components of love. Love includes the beloved.
To give an example, someone may say, “I love chocolate.” But what he really means is that eating chocolate brings him happiness. He has no desire to please the chocolate in any way, he wants to eat and enjoy it. The chocolate is meant to give him happiness, and not vice versa. Here, the person acts for his own happiness.
In contrast, someone may say, “I love my daughter.” In this we find a constant flow of affection from the person’s heart towards their beloved daughter, in the form of intense concern to see that she is safe, happy, and so on. This person desires to do something that delights or benefits the child, and when they can make the beloved happy, they automatically experience the expansion of heart, which is a characteristic of happiness. In the quest for happiness, one seeks the desired object to consume it. In the expression of love, however, one seeks the beloved for the sake of their pleasure. In love, one does not seek one’s own independent happiness, whereas in “love” (that is love in name only, but is actually the quest for happiness) one acts only for one’s own happiness. Although love permits no desire for one’s happiness, it bestows immense happiness, far greater than the independent pursuit of happiness.
In love, there is no possibility of a lover acting or even thinking unfavorably toward the beloved.
In summary, happiness and love are two different things, but love includes happiness.
(end of Part 2)